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25 Highly-Anticipated Open Source Releases

April 6th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

ComputerWorld publishes a lengthy piece titled 25 Highly-Anticipated Open Source Releases Coming This Year.

It’s a roundup of some major open source project releases scheduled for the rest of this year, although article commentors pointed out a number of important projects that weren’t mentioned… which shows how important and enormous the field of open source has become.

Firefox 3.5, Ubuntu 9.04 and 9.10, Android, Maemo, Eclipse, 3.1, Kaltura, Dimdim, Foswiki, WordPress, several open source hardware projects, and much more.

It’s going to be a huge year for open source!

Nokia N810 Announced

October 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

At Web 2.0 last week, Nokia announced its forthcoming N810, the successor to the N800 Internet Tablet.

New features include a hardware slideout keyboard, built-in GPS, and 2GB of Flash memory.

A new OS update will be released with it, which will also be installable on N800s. Screenshots from Ari Jaaksi’s blog show it to be quite attractive.

Thoughtfix Compares N800 and iPod Touch

October 10th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The prolific tablet blogger Thoughtfix has written a thorough side-by-side comparison of Nokia’s N800 and Apple’s iPod Touch.

In my opinion, both are great devices (I only have an N800 though), and Thoughtfix agrees on that point. However, he tests and compares which is preferable for varied use cases, and finds that each has its stronger niches.

“The iPod touch paired with iTunes will be my media player of choice… The Nokia N800 is far more powerful as an Internet device.”

Hopefully both will thrive, and help establish this emerging category of tablet devices that may one day be as important as PCs or cellphones are today!

“Bug” In the Spotlight

August 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Last night New York City startup Bug Labs hosted an introductory meetup at Punch Restaurant‘s upstairs Wined Up bar.

Bug Labs founder Peter Semmelhack describes the company thus: “Bug Labs is developing BUG, an open, modular, consumer electronics web services + hardware platform. Designed for the general audience, not just the technically inclined, Bug seeks to bring to the world of hardware gadgets what the Internet, open source, XML and web services have brought to the world of software and media.”

Most of the online action is on the company blog, but last night Bug Labs showed its hardware publicly for the first time. Its product is a modular, Lego-like collection of hardware components and software infrastructure that you can attach together to dynamically build specialty devices to service the long tail of product users’ needs.

Marketing chief Jeremy showed off three circuit boards plugged together, in size and shape totaling about the same as a video iPod. The base board contained the primary Bug device, while the other two, each half the length of the first, were an accelerometer/motion detector and a camera, respectively. Plugged together in this configuration, Jeremy held in his hand a security monitoring system.

When product launch occurs in the fall, many other modules will be available, including GPS, cell phone, LCD screens, keyboard and more. Bug Labs will target hackers and hobbyists first, and then when a collection of third-party applications have added consumer value to the product ecosystem, they’ll be able to make sales to normal consumers too.

With a few other organizations making moves into the world of open source or modular hardware, including OpenMoko, the OLPC, Drobo, and (sort of) the Nokia Maemo platform, it looks like a new, dynamic and fascinating market segment could be on its way to emergence. Let’s hope it brings the enormous benefits of open source communities to the hardware world that FOSS has brought to software already!

Mobile Computing from Nokia

June 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Nokia’s development of the 770 and N800 based on its Maemo platform could be testing tools for a future strategic shift to mobile computing, writes Michael Mace at

“Not smartphones, not converged devices, but full-on mobile computers intended to replace both PCs and mobile phones. Nokia says it expects these devices to eventually sell in the billions of units, and to become the world’s dominant means of accessing the Internet.

“Even though these future devices will still be mobile, if you take all of Nokia’s statements at face value the changes from mobile phones will be so extensive that it’s fair to call it a new business.”

As an open source fan, I am glad to see this. When Linux (or other open source)-based devices define a new market category from its very beginning, there will be almost no chance for proprietary software and monopoly control to get its foot in the door (analogous to the web server market, where Apache started early and holds about 70% marketshare).

Collaboration on the base platform is logical, and allows for faster and better innovation on top of and around it. I’ve long thought the Maemo platform, and the web tablet concept, are headed for significant future growth. Yes, we will see them replace many of the current uses of laptops and desktops and other small devices, though of course not every one.

Inquirer Reviews the Nokia N800

April 4th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Inquirer reviews the Nokia N800 in Nokia’s cheap UMPC alternative is future-proof, giving it nine out of ten “beers” for a very positive result.

“With [the N800], the expensive UMPC vendor camp and the PDA vendors both have something to worry about. At the same time, road warriors needing web browsing and e-mail on the go can finally consider leaving notebooks at home, only using them as desktop replacements.”

Lots of good photos in this review, and it demonstrates an understanding of the real importance of the Maemo’s open source nature (which is why they call it “future-proof”).

The Maemo platform is in a very strong position for the web tablet market, probably analogous to what DOS achieved in the early days of the PC market. And web tablets, or something similar, will probably replace the expensive and awkward UMPC category entirely.

Further, open source has proved (witness Apache), that once it starts strongly in a new market niche, it is nearly impossible to dislodge it. I expect the future product category of web tablets to be another area where open source completely dominates, like web servers, because of the strong position it is already carving out for itself now with the Maemo and N800.

Maemo Roadmap

March 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Ari Jaaksi, head of Nokia’s open source software operations, has posted a “high-level roadmap” of the next year or two of Maemo platform development.

The roadmap contains a lot of interesting features for all N800 users. Software improvements to OS2007 will be coming in several waves, and then it appears that new hardware might be planned for next year, to include WiMax support. On top of that are plans to strengthen involvement in open source community projects, and to encourage even greater participation by developers on applications for, and improvements to, Maemo itself.

The post is very encouraging, and the huge number of comments responding to it indicate how robust this community has already become. Maemo is great!

UbuCon 2007 on Friday

February 19th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

On Friday I attended UbuCon 2007, an “unconference” held at Google’s offices in Manhattan.

Joey Stanford posted some pictures and his summary on his blog. (I took no photos; it’s not permitted anywhere in Google’s office except the lobby.)

Besides learning more about my favorite Linux distro, I also saw a number of attendees carrying Nokia N800s (there were three in the morning, and then someone returned from lunch with a freshly-purchased one in a box that he opened), Mako Hill brought a prototype of the OLPC project’s XO computer, and we had a quick tutorial on using GIMP, Inkscape and Blender.

A fun and informative conference, and my first visit to the inside of a Google office complex.

More on the new Maemo

January 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Engadget posts a photo gallery of the new Nokia N800, the successor to Nokia’s 770 Debian-based internet tablet.

Also, ThoughtFix continues his coverage of the N800 with an interview with Ari Jaaksi of Nokia and plenty more.

Many good points come from the interview. One of the most interesting is this (paraphrased) quote from Dr Jaaksi: “Linux, Gnome, gstreamer, and other open-source choices were a BIG contribution to the success of this device.”

Of course they were! The 770 reached out to open source developers and gave them a real voice in its development. A community naturally formed around it, Nokia treated the developers as they ought to be treated, and the product became a success. This is a really good example of the way companies and developer communities can work together well.

Nokia’s 770 Successor is the N800

January 8th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Late last week Nokia announced its update to the 770, the new, more powerful N800.

Significant memory increases, a processor upgrade, digital camera and better expansion options on the hardware side are coupled with the new OS2007 on the software side.

Check John Tokash’s blog to see his video report from CES.

Many applications are available for Maemo. I’m especially looking forward to using FBReader for reading ebooks from Project Gutenberg.